Priest lands in police net on charge of gang-raping, killing Dalit girl in India

A nine-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped, murdered and then cremated by her attackers in South West Delhi Sunday evening.

All that was left of her for the forensic team to collect were her legs apart from her ashes, Delhi Police said Tuesday.

Four suspects were arrested Monday — a priest, Radhe Shyam, along with Laxmi Narayan and Kuldeep who worked with the priest, and Salim, a resident of the area — a day after the child’s mother identified them.

The accused have been charged for rape, murder, criminal intimidation and destruction of evidence under the Indian Penal Code apart from the relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the SC/ST Act.

Family members and relatives of the victim as well as residents of Purana Nangal in the Delhi Cantonment area, where the family lives, have been protesting since Monday evening, demanding the death penalty for the accused.

On Sunday evening, the girl, an only child, had told her parents she wanted to go to the Peer Baba dargah to play. They, however, asked her to fetch some cold water first from the water cooler at the crematorium, a 5-minute walk from the house.

The father dropped the child at the crematorium and told her, “You can play after we have cold water for dinner.” He then left to buy vegetables, intending to pick the child up on his way back.

About half an hour later, the priest Radhe Shyam called the mother, asking her to “come quickly”.

On reaching the crematorium, the mother found the child’s lifeless body on the ground.

Her lips had turned blue, there were burn marks on her wrists and elbow, and there was blood coming from her nose, the mother recounted.

According to her, before she realized what was happening, the priest told her, “Your daughter got electrocuted while filling water, hurry up the cremation or the cops will conduct a post mortem and doctors will steal her organs.”

The mother claimed the cremation began about 10 minutes after she reached the spot. As the pyre burned, she called her husband, while her wails drew about 200 villagers to the spot.

Initially, the police had only registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

After locals protested, the accused have been booked for murder, rape and criminal intimidation, under strict laws regarding child sexual abuse and crimes against scheduled castes and tribes.

Dalits are at the bottom of the South Asian country’s caste hierarchy. Women and children from this community are particularly vulnerable to being victims of crimes such as assault and rape.